Sometimes, at dawn, perched on the edge of his unmade bed, drifting into sleep – he never slept lying down, now – he thought about her. Antoinette. And them. The belonging kind. Sometimes he speculated dreamily…Perhaps they were like house mice, the sort of small animal evolved to live only in the walls of man-made structures.
[…] And they can change outwardly, like a chameleon or a rockfish, for protection. So they can live among us. And maybe, Coretti thought, they grow in stages. In the early stages seeming like humans, eating the food humans eat, sensing their difference only in a vague disquiet of being an outsider.
– The Belonging Kind, John Shirley and William Gibson (P)1981 [Text file here]
For as long as I can remember I’ve been a solitary person, a loner. Not the belonging kind. But I’ve adapted, as one must. I’ve learned to be happy in my own company to the point where I can leave the office on a Friday evening and have no contact with another human being until going back to work on Monday morning – and not be bothered by it. They say hindsight is 20/20, but I believe my gender dissonance was a factor in this: when you know that you don’t belong with the boys, and it’s not possible to hang out with the girls, you learn to make your own entertainment. To be self-sufficient.
But your introversion feeds on your isolation, your self-imposed exile. Time passes, you grow and retreat still further into yourself. You build walls to keep your inner space safe, your rudimentary social skills fall away and you move from enduring to positively embracing the solitude.
Still, I’m only human and yes, sometimes I get lonely, sometimes I think I’d give anything for company, the simple physical presence of another – but my decision was made too long ago now to change, and so it goes.
Perhaps the hardest part of living alone has been – is – living alone. Humans are social creatures and, although the loneliness is usually bearable, still there are times when you just want someone to talk to. To share the good and the bad, the happy and sad. But when that, too, is not an option, you bottle it up inside.
Finally, the pressure of spending a lifetime in denial, of not facing up to the see-sawing of your emotions and the endless sense of not belonging anywhere, of just, somehow, being different, builds to the point where you can no longer contain it. Then one day, you find yourself forced to face your demons. And that’s when your crisis becomes a state of emergency. Mine was eased when I began my transition. It brought an unexpected sense of liberation. When the hormones began to kick in, it felt like coming home. Many things have changed – overwhelmingly for the better – and I’ve been able to leave that life behind and start building mine.
In the process of transitioning, my gains were counterbalanced by losses. I think this happens to many trans people, to some degree. Some lose it all: partners, children, friends, homes, jobs, everything. I was lucky: I “only” lost my family, they do not accept me as the person I am. Bad enough, yes, and it pains me today perhaps more than any – for as long as I can remember, growing up, Christmas was always a time for family. I guess it probably still is even today, but not being mentally or emotionally strong enough to pick up the phone, I can’t say for sure. Estrangement is a… strange… condition.
I’m still not the belonging kind; as much as I might like to be, I don’t believe I ever will, and so the rest of this solitary existence lies before me. But the other side of solitude is loneliness. Usually it’s bearable, but some days it’s less so. Some days it’s about just enduring the empty hours, about getting through it somehow, about hoping that better times will come. Today is one of those days.